근 geun

Until very recently, the only Korean name I had encountered with the syllable 근 was that of the current South Korean president Park Geun-hye. (The vowel is /ɯ/, high back unrounded – notoriously difficult for English speakers of Korean.) Now, suddenly, in one class, I’ve got 래근 (rae-geun), 창근 (chang-geun), 도근 (do-geun) and 호근 (ho-geun). The first and last are particularly interesting because they are superficially similar to the English names Reagan and Hogan, but they are genuine, if rare, Korean names. (Please let there not be a 보근 (bo-geun) anywhere. Even though I know about this, I can’t help thinking about these.)  (Wikipedia’s search brings up the latter first.)

The meaning of geun in a Korean name depends on which Chinese character it is based on. Wikipedia lists 18 different meanings. Park Geun-Hye’s name in hanja is 槿惠, which makes her geun the Chinese hibiscus, Hibiscus rosa-sinensis.

Park_Geun-hye_(8724400493)_(cropped)1024px-Hibiscus_Brilliant(both photos from Wikipedia)

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